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National Coming Out Day

I never thought I would be the sort of person to do this. Frankly, I’ve gotten by for years by telling myself it’s nobody else’s business but my own. In the grand scheme of things, that’s true. The problem though, is that I was using that as an excuse. I wasn’t telling people because I didn’t want them to know. I was afraid.

I’m still afraid.

I’m tired of being afraid.

For those of you who don’t know, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. You can click the link for more information, but the gist is that it is civic awareness day where people of the LGBTQ+ community can feel empowered by “coming out” about their sexuality or gender identity. I’m sure you’ve all figured out where this is going, so I’m going to cut to the chase:

I identify as a bisexual.

Anyone who knows me well personally is probably unsurprised by this news. The few people I’ve told in person – which has honestly been fairly limited to immediate family – have simply given me looks like I’m being dense. My mom was actually able to use the term “bisexual” before I could, which was the flashing neon sign that made me realize that this is something I need to do, not for anyone else but for my own peace of mind.

I first suspected that I was “not normal” in my first year of high school. At that time in my life, I had no concept about what it meant to be bisexual, or that it was even a thing. When I realized that I was just as appreciative of pretty girl as I was of a handsome guy, I struggled to make sense of my identity. I knew that I wasn’t gay, because I was just as keen on ogling the cute guys as my other friends, but that left me with more questions than answers when it came to my burgeoning crush on Emma Watson. I ended up rationalizing it by telling myself that as an artistically inclined person, I was merely admiring the general aesthetics, and any other lingering feelings were more from a jealous desire to be like these girls than from a desire to date them.

In the last few months I have come to realize that I am an expert at “rationalizing” my way out of things I don’t want to think about.

I managed to get by for the rest of high school and a bit of college on that weak rationale. It helped me ignore my first crush on a girl who wasn’t a celebrity I had no chance of ever meeting. I continued to date guys – albeit most of them turned out to be gay guys who were still in the closet. (Yes, I can appreciate the irony.) In college I met a guy that I fell madly in love with – like cheesy, over-the-top Nicholas Sparks’ film love – and I thought surely all of that confusion was over.

I actually wrote a post a few year ago when I first became introduced to the idea of sexuality as a spectrum. Being able to think about sexuality without the constraints of labels was incredibly liberating for me, but that wiggle room also allowed me space to continue to dance around the issue. Even as I began to consider the possibility that I wasn’t “straight” like I had spent my life thinking, I found ways to play it off.

In the last few years, I turned it into a joke. Humor was my way of dealing with my confusion. Whenever the subject came up, I laughed it off. When I let myself get comfortable and my continuing crush on Emma Watson or new crush on Jennifer Lawrence cropped up in conversation, I found ways to make light of it until it was dismissed. Even with my closest friends and family, I couldn’t openly admit to the fact that I was dealing with a lot of internalized confusion.

Hell, I couldn’t admit it to myself.

It has only been within the last six months that I was able to admit, to myself and never aloud, that I wasn’t necessarily straight. Less than two weeks ago I told my mom that I might be “occasionally gay” and that’s when she said it, with simple curiosity and a pure lack of judgement: “Why don’t you just say bisexual?”

And the lights came on. I realized in that moment that even when I claimed to have accepted the fact about myself, when I told myself that I wasn’t telling people because it wasn’t their business, I was still denying it. I had spent years spiraling in concentric circles closer and closer to the truth without ever actually touching it. I had never before actually given a name to my feelings, but in that instant someone else had already embraced the word I had done everything in my power to avoid.

There was a sense of wonder and relief in my voice when I admitted, “Yeah, I might be bi.”

Which is what brings me to today. It’s what brings to me typing out my sad, pathetic story of denial and hypocrisy. While I’ve spent my life as an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and was more than eager to accept other people for whatever they might be, I wasn’t ready to accept myself.

Today, I am.

I never imagined myself as the sort of person to publicly “come out” because I also believed that it wasn’t anyone else’s problem. I never understood all the fuss. What did it matter if other people knew?

It’s only now that I realize that coming out isn’t for everyone else. I’m not doing this because I think other people need to know. I’m doing this because I needed to know. I needed to say it, to not feel like it was my dirty little secret that would only be dragged out into the light if I happened to find a girl I liked. I told myself I wasn’t lying by keeping it quiet, but a lie of omission is still not true.

I’m tired of lying and skirting and tiptoeing about without actually saying it. I know that there will be backlash. I know that there will be people in my life who can’t accept this fact. I know that there are going to be hard times and hurtful words and more tears (I may or may not be currently crying) ahead of me, but for the first time in my life I am not afraid to face that. I finally feel like I am me, without restraint.

Tomorrow can do as it wishes; for today, I am out and I am free.

A Rainbow Chequered Past

A snippet of conversation from my house this morning…

Me: Oh, so I found this new fruit that I like!

Dad: Yeah? What’s his name?

So I actually just meant that a friend had let me try a new kind of fruit that I’d never eaten before (persimmons, in case you’re curious, and they’re delicious. I’m not a fan of most healthy foods so it’s newsworthy when I find one I like,) but that exchange got me thinking and I realised my dad is definitely on to something. More than half of my ex-boyfriends are gay.

I should clarify, they were not “out” yet when we were dating. I didn’t know, although on more than one occasion I had suspicions. But it’s most certainly a trend in my dating life. Four of the seven steady boyfriends I have had, including my elementary school “boyfriend” and my first two proper boyfriends, have turned out to be gay.

What does that say about me? Well there are a couple less than flattering conclusions I can draw from that.

First is that I’m such a horrible girlfriend that I actually turn men gay, but I don’t believe that one. It’s not that I think I’m a brilliant girlfriend, I know I’m not very good at relationships, but I firmly believe that sexuality is a borne-in thing, not something that you can consciously choose. Which means they were all gay to begin with and not converted by my terrible relationship skills.

Second is that I make a good “gay-beard.” For those of you who don’t know, a gay-beard is that person that a gay person dates in an attempt to make people believe they are straight. Think the film “Easy A” for reference. I’m not sure what the qualifications are for being a good gay-beard, but apparently something about me fills them. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that in high school my self-esteem was so low I’d date anyone who showed interest in me, even if I suspected he might also be interested in a guy as well. Or maybe it was because I had the ample cleavage and they assume that’s what straight guys would care about. Either way, it was a thing that happened.

A third and equally confusing possibility is that something about me rings “guy” like. That maybe in some small way, they are attracted to my more guy-ish side but that whole actual gender thing gets in the way. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not exactly girly. I own pink clothes and lots of shoes and check out boys in films, but that’s about the extent of it. I like sports, even if my boobs make them difficult to play. I like jeans and hate dresses. I only wear make-up on the specialist of most special occasions, and even then it’s very light. I paint my toenails while playing video games – a skill I’ve mastered, by the way. I’ve gotten really good at applying a coat per cutscene. For every trait that I share with the other girls my age, there’s something I do that’s considered more guy-ish.

So does that make me less of a girl than other girls?

For a long time I have battled with questions like this. There is this social stigma that beileves that any girl who is not girly must be a lesbian. I found notes like this about me scrawled on bathroom stalls in high school – a thing I thought only happened in films, but turns out people actually do it. I spent all of high school supremely confused about what these assumptions meant for me.

Did this make me gay? Was I gay because gay men were somehow drawn to me? Was I gay because I liked playing video games and basketball? Was I gay because I could appreciate that my girl friends or female celebrities were attractive? Was I only dating guys because that’s what convention told me to do?

And if I was gay, why didn’t I feel about girls the same way I felt about guys?

The truth of the matter is that sexual identity and orientation are so much more complicated than that. There’s a really great vlogbrothers video about it if you’re curious, but essentially it comes down to this:

It’s not just about guy or girl, gay or straight. “Or” is the completely wrong word to use. Because sexuality isn’t an and/or situation. There’s so much gray, fuzzy middle area that we just don’t comprehend. Sexuality and gender isn’t so much about fitting into one of two circles. It’s more like a line, a spectrum with guy on one end and girl on the other, and where in that line you fit.

So while I identify as a girl, I am not on that radical, definitive end of the spectrum but a few ticks toward the guy side. My sexuality is the same way. I am straight, but I can admit that there are women I find attractive (Jennifer Lawrence, for example). I am a straight female, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all I am.

Now that we’ve established that about me, what does that mean for all of my gay boyfriends?

Honestly, in the end, I think that there was something about me that drew them in. We had one very important thing in common: we were confused. There are so many pressures in high school, especially socially, and we were all turned around and feeling stressed by trying to uphold cultural convention. They were expected to be something they weren’t, and so was I. We were confused and we were scared, and that’s what drew us together.  We were just looking for someone – anyone – who could possibly understand us and what we were dealing with.

And in the end, during that time we shared, I think that made us perfect for each other.